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|London Open Mic Poetry Archive||
I like the ordinary little guy who's standing beside his desk there beside the old pool table and who has no PR ability at all but who puts everything he has into getting me set up to vote, fusses around with his papers and computer screen and my driver's licence, and even thanks me for voting, and then points me to a booth. I like the big voting cards and I like all the unexpected people and parties I get to choose from, and I like the room itself which is across the hall from the laundry, and the few other last-minute voters wandering around, and I especially like the fancy voting machine that takes a photo of my ballot which is fed into it in such a way that nobody can see what's on it, records it electronically, and stores away the paper copy just in case. It's all very satisfying. And makes me feel like the citizen I am.
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I can't relate to all that screaming and shouting and jumping and flaying of limbs at sports games. At all. I stay away from them. Well, today on the news I saw a clip of a political rally and realized there was virtually no difference between it and a soccer game. The people are all being controlled by the same instinctive emotion, which makes them desperately want to be members of a group, family, band, tribe, team, fandom, religion, nation--and to dislike or hate all opposing groups. I once attended a political meeting that was honouring an outgoing party leader, and I was sickened by the mob emotions, the religious worship that overwhelmed the group--even though the meeting was of the party I had voted for all my life and otherwise appreciated. None of that emotion has anything to do with the calm consideration of policy differences that's necessary in deciding whom to vote for, which is central to a democracy.
Yes, I've always been an outsider, but if being an insider means having to take part in this kind of thing, leave me out.
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There's nothing much happening here.
and what is is pretty clear;
there's a woman with a hat over there
that's totally covering her hair.
I think it's time we left, Sweetie, what's all that sound,
too much noise for us downtown.
To hear the full song sung: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5JCrSXkJY
(I was surprised to recognize a very young Neil Young in the band.)
It's a strange feeling. But for some reason you can't stop smiling! (It was for my featured reading at the last London Open Mic of my 5-year tenure as organizer.) 🙂
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I was walking back downtown from the Cardiac Institute, wearing a heart monitor now to check how the new pills are doing. They’re supposed to be smoothing out the weird heart rhythms that come with atrial fibrillation. If so, they may give me a few extra years of life. Possibly. In any case, I’m getting used to closing in on the end. And partly because of that, and partly because of being retired and having more time, I’m living my life more intensely now.
So anyway I got to Richmond Row, looked into the shops, then stopped to talk to an artist working on a painting beside Victoria Park. (We discussed some of the similarities and differences between poetry and painting.) At the other end of the park, I noticed someone hustling into the beautiful big St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica. I wandered along the front of the building, ogling the gargoyles that were staring down at me, including one of an actual person wearing big glasses. What the heck; I’m always a sucker for these strange, awesome, somewhat beautiful architectural creations so I stepped inside. Luckily there was only a scattered audience and the back row was empty. I sat there and admired the great stained-glass windows and high arches and tried to follow the voices of the stream of people who read from various things. But I soon gave up as the sound system seemed to conflict with the size of the room so that most of the voices were unintelligible. And anyway I didn’t know anything about the rituals that were performed in silence between the readings so I ducked out, and picked up a copy of the church paper on the way.
A café I had never been in before enticed me and I flipped through the paper there looking for something that might catch my eye. There was a message from the rector, something about a fiftieth-anniversary thing, a photo of a grand new painting of the rector who stood importantly in front of it, with an interview of the artist, nah, nah, hah. And there was a double spread about international students visiting, with photos of actual young people, African, Indian, etc. The article itself, like all of them, was set in an extra large font, obviously for old people with poor eyesight. Which, I had noticed, comprised most of the people I had seen in the pews. Times are changing; this is an increasingly secular world. There was a list of parishioners who had died, most in their 80s, with the headline: We Remember… For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die…
A time to die. Okay, now I was alert and relating. Because I’m slowly getting ready to die myself. And quite often lately I’ve been feeling the size of the arc that goes back to my birth. How short it is. And how I seem to pick up speed along it as I approach the endpoint. Then I read again the first phrase on that line: a time to be born. Suddenly I’m seeing the immensely long timeline of human beings on earth, and also, just at one very precise but random point along it, I was born. And there my arc began. Me. This extremely complicated, very conscious being. Only at that one point. I had no say in when I was born (or where). I could say I was partly lucky, and partly unlucky, but, in any case, my little arc exists only at this one inch along those miles of timeline. I’m stuck with this inch. Can’t see back from it or ahead. Boy! That just feels so weird. If it was somebody else’s life I was looking at, I would just say, well, that person belongs at that inch, and that other person at that other inch, and so on, all along the road. But it’s me, sitting here aware of myself for what I am. And I feel like a cobblestone.
It is so weird to be a unique, very complicated, very conscious human—this special thing, or so it seems—and yet, at the very same time to see my true place in reality: just one little bump on a very, very long line of birth-and-death arcs. We can see how truly amazing each one of us is, then fantacize it to an even higher level of importance if we need to in order to tolerate our smallness--in our arrogance and narcissism or whatever bit of stretching we have going on in our minds--but, that simply doesn’t matter: in every case without exception we are just a little bump occupying our inch of the road. And even that disappears from existence as the wave of the present moment passes over it.
The sun-hammered zoo
was crowded, families shuffling
into cool, barred halls,
their little ones pointing at the lumbering,
muscle-swollen gorillas whose leathery children
tumbled in the distance, their mama alert,
big Papa swinging his
bulk to the front, his back up
against a trunk, glancing at a weaker
father through the glass,
slowly scratching his chest
with one rough hand, rubbing with the other
his penis as
the kids giggle, then drops it, shifts
his weight to pick the broken
edge of a toenail,
then back again—that demonstration.
Finally, Mother coughs
and the weaker Father
finds his voice:
A couple weeks ago I attended a workshop organized by Frank Beltrano, the Lois Marie Harrod Poetry Writing Workshop, and one of the things we did to get the juices flowing was to write a poem on the spot, based on a prompt, a number of which were provided. One prompt situation mentioned monkeys and a zoo, and the memory in the poem above, from maybe forty years ago, came to mind. I've never liked writing poems from prompts, from lack of confidence, but this one worked out well. And, while writing it, I came to a new understanding of the event that had never occurred to me before: that the male gorilla came forward and sat between the female gorilla and the man behind the glass on purpose, to show him just who was the man around there. So having to write something you wouldn't on your own can have its rewards.
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إبراهيم أشعياء عوض I think it has a good flow of images.
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I was reading “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World” by Henry David Thoreau and came across this passage, from March 30th, 1840:
“Pray, what things interest me at present? A long, soaking rain, the drops trickling down the stubble, while I lay drenched on last year’s bed of wild oats, by the side of some bare hill, ruminating. These things are of moment. To watch this crystal globe just sent from heaven to associate with me. While these clouds and this sombre drizzling weather shut all in, we two draw nearer and know one another. The gathering in of the clouds with the last rush and dying breath of the wind, and then the regular dripping of twigs and leaves the country o’er, the impression of inward comfort and sociableness, the drenched stubble and trees that drop beads on you as you pass, their dim outline seen through the rain on all sides dropping in sympathy with yourself. These are my undisputed territory. This is Nature’s English comfort. The birds draw closer and are more familiar under the thick foliage, composing new strains on their roosts against the sunshine.”
Our weather here lately has been very similar.
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I've started writing a diary umpteen times in my life, and quickly stopped writing it as many times. It always seemed like too much work at the end of the day, and pointless work considering that the next day, not that one, was when I hoped to begin accomplishing my big things. The ones I had not already given up on, that is.
Also, much of the ordinary drivel of the day always felt negative to me one way or another, and no less so when I tried to put it on paper. Which is typical of someone suffering from chronic anxiety, I expect. I would rather not dwell on most of those things. Nor even admit their existance.
The trouble is that if everything has a negative feeling attached to it, no matter how neutral or positive it actually is, then it's like having a low-level version of PTSD. Actually it's even worse than the real thing, because it's not just a few horrifying things that hit you hard with their memories, but nearly every little thing every day. And, as with heavy-duty PTSD, the bad memories are self reinforcing, because they just keep recurring, and every time they do, they're more unforgettable than before. Whereas the few good things that happen are forgotten right away.
I'm exaggerating, of course. (Which is typical.)
So writing all the day's events out in a diary doesn't help. However!! My new idea is to keep a diary of only the things that made me smile. The truly enjoyable things. That way I would reinforce them and not the others. If I can get myself to do that, and keep it up, maybe I'll end up feeling like someone living a not-so-bad life.
This idea is my first diary entry.
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After plunking on the computer a while, I wandered out to say hi to Linda. But she wasn’t in the living room, or the kitchen. Or the bedroom or bathroom. But I had definitely heard some sound coming from somewhere, so I was sure she hadn’t gone out. The only other place she could be was out on the balcony. But she wasn’t there either. So I gave up and called her.
Hard at work on some obscure thing. I never did find out what. Part of her new spring balcony design.
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At breakfast this morning I found we had run out of milk for cereal so I went to Plan B, a bagel. I put it in the toaster and got the butter and jam out ready to get it on there while the thing was still hot. The butter's got to melt into it, and the whole thing has to be warm when I put it in my mouth.
Linda saw what I was doing and asked me to get a bagel out for her too, since she hadn't eaten yet either. While mine was toasting, she started spreading butter on hers cold, and then peanut butter on top of that.
I looked at it, and looked at it again, and said, "That's weird. That's just plain weird. Aren't you even going to toast it?"
"No. I like it cold," whereupon she walked out into the living room with it and plunked herself down in front of the TV.
That got me thinking. "You know," I said, as I sat on a chair at the kitchen table, "it's good that we all have these little differences in what we like. It makes us feel like individuals, instead of just doing what we're supposed to do all the time."
Without turning around: "That's for sure."
At our advanced age, we've stared at all the supposed-tos in our lives so many times, and catered to them and fought with them so often, that they're like heavily armed jailers always crowding in on us wherever we are, just now leaning down over my bagel with their typical grim expressions.
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Erin Kelly were you eating Russian 'black bagels'?
Stan Burfield No, brown, whole-wheat ones. Why?
Erin Kelly Something about your metaphor reminded me of Russian literature...
Stan Burfield Ha ha. It would be so much fun having a conversation with you, Erin.
Erin Kelly Stan Burfield same!
· Reply · 2 May at 20:38
As I get older, I'm seeing that, more often than not, it happens like this: instead of our minds and bodies slowly decaying away, as we had always feared they would, we feel little changed as we look out through our eyes on that same world, which, if anything, we can see more clearly, not less, as we age. With a little tweaking now and then, life seems like it could go on forever. Day to day, from youth to old age, we carry on quite normally. As with evening and the approach of night, there is never one moment that is suddenly on the night side of the day.
So it happens like this: in the middle of some sparkling afternoon, we hear a roar behind us, find we can't move, and turn into the headwind of the freight train of death.
If you don't know
where you're going
will get you there.
And if you don't know
where you're coming from
will take you home.
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Meredith Moeckel Love this! ~♡~
Last night Linda and I went to the opening night of The Taming of the Shrew at the Grande, mainly to see Kevin Heslop in his first major role on the stage, which is only the third role of his acting career.
Kevin, who is London Open Mic’s interviewer and one of the city’s young poets-extraordinaire, is one of the two lead actors in this comedy by Shakespeare. The twist in this version is the reversal of gender roles, so that the men are all played by women actors and the women by men. Kevin plays Katherine, the older sister who is being married off to a very domineering young man, played by a female actor, Ashley Fage, who does it with gusto.
Well, Kevin is certainly cut out for Shakespeare, as he has been soaking up the bard for years, not just the stories in the plays, but their poetry as well, the proper rhythm. He knows how it should be read, and it showed in his performance, which seemed to me to be the most natural-sounding of all the actors, even though he was playing a woman.
The climax of the play was Kevin’s soliloquy, delivered so naturally, as if he (she) were just standing there thinking out loud, that all the people in the audience suddenly stopped their internal chatter and heard what he was saying. The guy sitting behind me stopped jiggling his leg and checking his cell phone, and the lovers in the back row no longer whispered to each other. Total silence. Kevin held the room spellbound. It was something to behold.
I expect we’ll see him in Stratford soon.
The Taming of the ShrewPresented by Funeral Pyre Theatre in association with Squirrel Suit Productions
April 26 to May 6, 2017
Director: Liam Grunté
Stage Manager Julia McCarthy
Producers Liam Grunté and Carlyn Rhamey
Starring Kevin Heslop and Ashley Fage
Also featuring Neva Gunther, Tristan Watts, Irene Paibulsirijit, Andrea Avila, Mya Matos, Gareth Ross, Holly Holden, Lyndsey Burns, Olivia Little and Kendall Robertson
“The Taming of the Shrew” is renowned as Shakespeare's most controversial play. It is a tale of mistaken identity, deception and complicated love triangles. The plot thickens as suitors of the fair Bianca convince a visiting stranger to marry her older sister Katherina in order to allow Bianca to be eligible to be wed. However, Katherina is not a willing participant in their plans.
Reversing the roles in this production brings a fresh perspective to an old yarn, allowing the audience to experience the story from alternative points of view.
FP Theatre is proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds from this production are being donated in support of the London Abused Women's Centre #ShinetheLight on Women's Abuse campaign.
Just before the leaves popped out, Linda and I found this beautiful bit of nature south of Wallacetown. And right away she discovered a big patch of very-rare burgundy trilliums! She was so happy! Trilliums are one of her favourite flowers.
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إبراهيم أشعياء عوض burgundy Trilliums are a welcome change from the plain white ones!
Heather Roberts Cadsby Lovely! They are known as wakerobin and are, to put it politely, ill-scented.
Stan Burfield Ah. Thanks. I'll tell her.
Stan Burfield Here's where we were if anyone wants to check out the Trilliums or the trees or both. https://www.google.ca/.../data=!3m6!1e1!3m4...
I clamber down
to the stream, grabbing
small branches to not slide
in the mud, and am stopped, mesmerized,
by all the little slipping arcs of
light that glide along the flow;
across the wobbling
water on a bouncing
to a rock, up the bank, boots
on steps of snaking gnarly roots.
in the quiet--
(From "Too Early for Leaves")
Linda sat on a log there and I sat next to her. In time, she wandered off. I stayed, pulling out a small book of Walt Whitman’s poems. But I was ready to pocket it again, as I assumed its small white pages would contract my mind, reduce it, the last kind of experience I wanted out there. Instead, as I focussed on the words from that open, all-encompassing mind, my own mind seemed to expand into the forest around me, without looking up at it. I became part of the forest instead of an observer, with the Cardinals calling to each other and all the old leaves from last year on the ground at my feet.
A NOISELESS, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them. 5
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
These are my notes that I used for the launch of our Basic Poetics Study Group. If you write poetry but, like me, have never received a formal education in it, you very well could find these notes useful, especially when you’re trying to decide if a poem should have short or long lines, or whether a break should be at a punctuation mark or in the middle of a clause or phrase. This info was culled from five books on poetics, and is fairly comprehensive, but basic. Of course there is a lot more a person can learn. Applying these ideas to my own poetry gave me a huge boost in confidence, and enthusiasm!
The topic for the May 6th edition is Metaphor, to be led by member Sheila Deane.
LINE BREAKS (one of the major differences between poetry and prose)
Free verse isn’t easier to compose than traditional forms: With no set limits, how to write it isn’t as obvious.
A line is a meaningful groupings of words, in what they say and in how they say it.
THE LINE BREAK (has no formula: think of it as an effect)
End-stopped line breaks, with break at a punctuated or syntactical pause. Check out Poems 3, 4
Some effects to watch for on the line
A line break inside a line (caesura): announces an important or revelatory moment, where emotion is amassed, (also sometimes to set a conversational tone: a dialoguee from opposite sides of the caesura).
eg: “Forlorn! the very word is like a bell” (Keats)
Stanzas themselves can be end-stopped or enjambed. If an end-stopped line occurs before the final line, we end with a sense of tension and want to read on to the next stanza. A number of stanzas like this can give the final end-stopped line greater power. Check out Poem #4
1. This is a sample from a piece of prose: He just laid bare his heart and the young woman kissed him until he yelled, “Stop fooling around and get down to business!” Now see what adding line breaks to it can do:
He just laid bare
his heart and the young woman
kissed him until he yelled, “Stop
fooling around and get down
(new emphasis on words at the ends of lines: more of a sexual overtone & more relationship depth.)
2. From a poem by Eleanor Wilner: “Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm”
the armies grow again, human beetles in
their masks, vague hatred with its poison
gas, the air itself a deadly trench…
I moved, and could not feel my limbs: 4-foot tetrameter
I was so light—almost enjambment: tension (line makes one shape & sentence another)
I thought that I had died in sleep end-stopped
And was a blessed ghost.
(Coleridge: The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner)
4.Where Is the Angel? Denise Levertov
Where is the angel for me to wrestle?
No driving snow in the glass bubble,
but mild September.
Outside, the stark shadows
menace, and fling their huge arms about
unheard. I breathe
a tepid air, the blur
of asters, of brown fern and gold-dust
seems to murmur,
and that’s what I hear, only that.
Such clear walls of curved glass:
I see the violent gesticulations
and feel--no, not nothing. But in this
gentle haze, nothing commensurate.
It is pleasant in here. History
mouths, volume turned off. A band of iron,
like they put round a split tree, (iron & tree both as end-words emphasize difference)
circles my heart. In here
it is pleasant, but when I open
my mouth to speak, I too
am soundless. Where is the angel
to wrestle with me and wound
not my thigh but my throat,
so curses and blessings flow storming out
and the glass shatters, and the iron sunders? (all enjambed stanzas finally bring us to rest in this final question)
Critical step in cellular repair of damaged DNA identified which could be big for reversing aging and human trials will start within six monthsUNSW researchers have identified a critical step in the molecular process that allows cells to repair damaged DNA – and it could mean big things for the future of anti-ageing drugs, childhood cancer survivors and even astronauts. It could lead to a revolutionary drug that actually reverses ageing, improves DNA repair and could even help NASA get its astronauts to Mars.
Their experiments in mice suggest a treatment is possible for DNA damage from ageing and radiation. It is so promising it has attracted the attention of NASA, which believes the treatment can help its Mars mission.
I just saw a movie about a poet and his poems at the Hyland, called Paterson, the poet Ron Padgett. Wow. I've seen my share of poet-movies, but this one was the best by far. The movie itself was a digital poem reminiscent of Padgett's poetry in its simplicity and structure. The acting, directing (Jim Jarmusch)--everything about it was perfect. That simplicity. And the poems forming before our eyes.
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Jf Pickersgill I have heard the response of a lot of women who are furious at the character created as his wife.
Like · Reply · 6 hrs
Stan Burfield Oh, why? I think in terms of the structure of the movie, she is meant to be the opposite of his simplicity. To his soft grey, she is a hard-cut black and white. Something like that is necessary in the movie to point in the direction he is going. The poet happens to represent a man, Rod Padgett, but the genders of the two characters could just as easily have been reversed.
Like · Reply · 5 hrs · Edited
Jf Pickersgill I don't think the character in the movie is meant to represent Padgett. Rather, the character was created and then they needed some true poetry rather than an impression of poetry written by a non-poet so they pressed Padgett into service because he is an actual poet in real life (not just a character in movies).
Like · Reply · 4 hrs · Edited
Stan Burfield Yeah, could very well be. I love the guy being a bus driver, and having this very ordinary life, in a world of old brick buildings and ordinary people and their lives. No glitz. No glamour. No clamouring for status. (Except from his wife, who represents that world: She keeps on insisting he try to get published, telling him over and over that he's a great poet.) I've got to say, I can't stand any of that stuff any more than the character in the movie can.
Like · Reply · 3 hrs
Jf Pickersgill First, I have to say: I have not seen the movie yet. I expect to see it on April 9 when it plays in Cobourg for a single showing. (Being a small town, we don't get movies like this very much at all.)
Second, I was presenting an opinion second-hand above. Various women I know who have seen the film seem to agree with one wonderful Canadian woman poet who put her view this way:
"I haven't encountered such a poorly written supporting female character since the year 2000. Any inanimate object within reach of you right now, Facebook reader, is infinitely more interesting and has more substance than the protagonist's live-in lover / wife in Paterson. I was rooting for the poet to sleep with the woman he occasionally exchanged a few lines with at the bar he went to every night to avoid the manic pixie dream girl / completely vapid cupcake-maker he had at home (and that he was apparently madly in love with). Said woman at bar demonstrated more character in her four lines of dialogue than the wife did the entire movie."
Like · Reply · 3 hrs
Stan Burfield Compared to him, I suppose vapid. and a bit Irritatingly so. But mainly just different. As we all are, but it's interesting to hear their points of view on her. Well, as I'm getting older, I'm certainly enjoying more and more trying to look at life through the eyes of women. As a guy, when you're young and charged with hormones, it's nearly impossible. Seeing this movie this way reminds me of what happened a couple times long ago when I mentioned my all-time favourite movie, Dr. Zhivago in the company of women They said they couldn't stand it, because the whole movie was about an affair by a married man, and how attractive the affair seemed, a problem that, as a guy, I had never even noticed!
Like · Reply · 2 hrs · Edited
Marianne Micros I think the wife is marvelous! She is so full of life and she respects and loves everything her husband does. She is playful and energetic while he is quiet and thoughtful. He also loves and respects all that she does, no matter how crazy. They are a contrast to other couples we see in the film.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 hrs
Stan Burfield Yes, you're right. I see that, too, as well as the point of view I attached to JF's post. I guess I can really relate to him, and can hardly relate to her at all, partly because I'm a guy, but also just from seeing the world more or less the way he does. But being compatible opposites in a relationship is an amazing thing. My wife and I are like that.
Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs · Edited
Marianne Micros Also his wife is an artist in her own way. She is also a comfort to him.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
Stan Burfield Actually my own wife is very much like her, totally a visual artist, always reworking the design of her home. When the woman in the movie was painting a wall black, and saying to him that it will be interesting, I thought there's my wife. She paints and repaints. And I look at it and just shrug my shoulders and feel happy for her. :) Since I told her about the wife in the movie, she's going to drag me back to it again. No problem. I love the poetry.
Like · Reply · 56 mins · Edited
Marianne Micros Me too. I loved the movie. The movie inspired me to write a poem about it
Like · Reply · 55 mins
Stan Burfield oh, wonderful! I don't suppose there's any chance....
Like · Reply · 50 mins
Organizer of London Open Mic Poetry. former support worker for people with autism and developmental disabilities. former farm boy, former adventurer, former florist.